ATLANTA — A melee breaks out along the Falcons sideline, and who's right in the middle of it?
DeAngelo Hall, of course.
"I was pretty sure," said Atlanta receiver Roddy White, a former teammate, "that he had something to do with it."
What Hall desperately wanted to do Sunday was beat the Falcons. Michael Turner made sure that wouldn't happen with a season-high 166 yards rushing, including two long touchdowns, and Atlanta snapped a two-game losing streak by beating Hall and the Washington Redskins 31-17.
Hall, who made two Pro Bowls playing for the Falcons from 2004-07, yapped away all week about how Atlanta treated him unfairly before a trade to Oakland. He didn't even make it through one season with the Raiders and landed in Washington.
Turner was just too much to handle in Hall's return to the Georgia Dome. He broke off a 30-yard touchdown run to help the Falcons build a 24-3 halftime lead, then finished off Washington with a 58-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Hall was the last guy to have a shot at the burly running back on that clinching TD, but the cornerback — giving away more than 50 pounds — slid right off when he tried to make a tackle around the shoulder pads.
"I didn't notice it was him," Turner said, a zinger even though he didn't mean it to be.
Hall might want to keep his mouth shut the next time he faces the Falcons (5-3), but he was still jabbering away after the game. He threatened to call commissioner Roger Goodell, accusing the Falcons of losing their cool — coach Mike Smith included — after LaRon Landry's late hit on Matt Ryan set off a near-brawl in the second quarter.
As flags flew, the outspoken cornerback jumped into the middle of things, surrounded by a horde of Atlanta players and an angry Smith. Hall was yanked away before any punches were thrown and insisted that he didn't do anything wrong.
"Guys just started coming at me," Hall said. "It wasn't any mindset to break the fight up. It was in a mindset to try to get some licks in. Even the head coach came over there. Mike Smith said some stuff, said some words to me, cussed me out. He was grabbing at me, pulling at me."
Smith refused to trade barbs with Hall, saying he was merely trying to break up the scuffle and didn't even know the former Falcons player was involved. But defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said the team figured Hall would try to stir things up.
"That's DeAngelo," Babineaux said. "That's what gets him going. You can't fall into what he's doing or he'll have you where he wants you."
After a slow start to the season, Turner is getting back to where he wants to be — something akin to the form that made him the league's second-leading rusher a year ago with 1,699 yards. He followed up a 20-carry, 151-yard effort against New Orleans with an even better performance against the Redskins, who had one of the league's top-rated defenses.
"Enough was enough," he said.
Washington (2-6) looked down and out at the midway point, having lost running back Clinton Portis to an apparent concussion. But Jason Campbell, who endured five sacks in the first half, directed a pair of 13-play scoring drives on Washington's first two possessions of the second half to close the gap to 24-17.
"They ended up having a little bit of pride in what they were doing," embattled coach Jim Zorn said.
But Turner wasn't done. Taking the handoff on what looked to be a routine play between the tackles, he found an opening, leaped over a diving Landry trying to take him down at the ankles, shook off Hall's attempted tackle with ease and rumbled the rest of the way for the clinching score.
The speedy Hall didn't even attempt to chase Turner down, realizing he was gone. So had any chance of getting revenge against the Falcons.
Campbell took quite a beating in the first half behind a makeshift line. The Falcons matched a franchise record by sacking him five times before halftime, knocking him out of the game for one play late in the second quarter.
Campbell went out again after another shot in the fourth but returned to finish. He was 15 of 22 for 196 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Todd Yoder that gave the Redskins a chance.
But Campbell also threw a pass that was intercepted by Tye Hill and returned 62 yards for a touchdown, part of Atlanta's early barrage.